After S. Ganassi
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- Alto in g’ (415, 440 and 466 Hz)
- Alto in f’ (only 440 Hz)
- Soprano in c” (415, 440 and 466 Hz)
In the 16th century 4 important books on musical instruments appeared written by VIRDUNG, AGRICOLA, GANASSI and JAMBE DE FER. These works were followed in the 1st half of the 17th century by PRAETORIUS and MERSENNE. The book by Sylvestro GANASSI: “Opera Intitulata Fontegara, la quale insegna di sonare di Flauto” was published in Venice in 1535. It is the earliest known specialist book of instructions for playing the recorder, while the other books deal with many sorts of instruments.
Sylvestro GANASSI was born in 1492 and was a court musician to the Doge of Venice and instrumentalist at the St. Mark’s church. Reading the Fontegara, one can’t but admit that the playing of the ‘flauto’ had reached a very high level of technical refinement. Ganassi always refers to the human voice as the example to be followed for expression and tonal variety on the flauto. He also stresses the importance of breath control (esp. for the highest notes) and the need of different fingerings for correct intonation.
The Ganassi recorders are striking because of their length, large fingerholes, their ‘fundamental’ timbre (i.e. many first and second harmonics) and esp. of course their range (2 octaves and a sixt).
The transition to the 3rd octave is possible because the 15th note (g3 on a descant in g’) can be played with a fingering (Ø1234567) derived from this note. Between the 14th and 15th note there is a break of register esp. because the second fingerhole must be vented a bit in order for this note to speak better (this raises the g and the player must compensate this by using less air-pressure). The fingerings by Ganassi are the same as those given by Cardanus (“De Musica”, c. 1546), who obviously describes the same instrument. However, Ganassi himself seems to realize that the sound of some of these high notes is not really usuable for musical purposes and he regards them as a rather coincidental particularity of his instrument. In the first place these high notes are described in a seperate series of 3 charts, which serve as a supplement to the first series of 6 charts in which the basic range of this recorder is described and this basic ranger is ONLY 1 octave and a sixt, the basic range of ALL renaissance (consort) recorders. Secondly, in the hundreds of musical examples of the Fontegara only 6 times the high g and only 2 times the high a is used in only 4 examples altogether. Thirdly Ganassi nowhere says that these high notes can be played on a tenor or a basset. We can suppose that it probably wasn’t possible to produce these high notes on tenors or bassets; it’s simply impossible to build a playable basset with a strictly cylindrical bore, because on such an instrument the fingerholes would be too widely spaced. Because the medieval recorders had cylindrical bores, which in fact is the easiest design for a recorder), we can assume that the smaller recorders (such as the descant in g’) were still cylindrical in the first half of the 16th century, while the larger instrument necessarily had a conical bore, the larger the instrument the more conical. Not only the congeniality with the medieval recorder-types and the mention in at least two treatises written before 1550 situate the Ganassi-recorder in the 1st half of the 16th century. A few of the rare historical specimen belonging to this type seem to have been built during this period, for they can be attributed to members of the BASSANO family who were active during this period. In both cases it also concerns a smaller type of recorder: the boxwood descant in g’ in the collection of the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (Kat. Nr. C8522) which is stamped !! probably the stamp of Hieronimo Bassano (died c. 1545) and the ivory descant in g’ from the collection of the Conservatoire National de Musique of Paris (Cat. Nr. E1935) which is stamped !! !! probably the mark of Alvise Bassano (died 1554) or his brother Jacopo Bassano (died c. 1560). Assigning certain stamps to certain members of generations of woodwind makers is however at this moment a fairly speculative business. This is not only true for the Bassanos, but also for the Rauchs of Schrattenbach and for the Rafis. The Ganassi recorders have a (nearly) cylindrical bore with a flare-bell at the end. The sound of the Ganassi instruments is full, round, very strong and loud. The bottom note is very stable and the upper register is very clear and bright. The Ganassi recorders have an enormous dynamic range and are today even used for contemporary music. Although the one surving instrument in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna is of course a recorder made in one piece, the Ganassi recorders are now made in two parts, to make it possible to get 2 or 3 pitches with only 1 headjoint (available with a brass connecting ferrule as an option).